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Amuse Bouche (Russell Quant Mysteries)
Amuse Bouche (Russell Quant Mysteries)
by Anthony Bidulka
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.95
62 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great debut from Bidulka, November 13, 2006
To make it short, I'll just go through the parts I liked and those I didn't.

Good: The Saskatoon setting, through which I became aquainted with an entire city I would never have though twice about. Had to pull out the big guns (atlas) to see where it was. Being surprised at every metion of Canada being home made me realize that I read way too many USA-centric books. The book is well-written. The amount of introspection came just to the line before snooze fest. The characters are interesting and engaging, although some more than the narrator. The ending more than makes up for the simplistic climax. Russell Quant's little world is a comfortable place to be. If you like a mystery with minimal violence, good style, and a character-driven plot, this is for you.

Bad: The first two big twists, so to speak, were so easy to guess it was almost painful. Being ahead of the detective is frustrating. The author abandoned suspects and, at the end, you know it's going to be one of two people.

The book takes on almost a literature feel to it. It is labled mystery/gay literature. A nice little hybrid. I found it enjoyable and would read more titles in this series.

How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author
How I Write: Secrets of a Bestselling Author
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.18
176 used & new from $0.01

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I recomend it, November 1, 2006
I have a bunch of writing guides. And I won't lie, maybe I use them as a crutch. I feel like more of a writer for knowing they're sitting on my shelf. So because I have a bunch of books already, the fact that I can get the relevant information not covered in this book from others might tip my review to the positive.

This book is in question and answer format. I didn't find that annoying, although I do agree that sometimes J. gave a brief answer, or worse, provided a paragraph worth of stuff that avoided the question altogether. A lot of the questions are rough paraphrases of: Wow, you're such an amazing writer! How do you do it?. I don't think Evanovich is a great writer. But she is an above-average one and a bestselling one, and I think we can all learn something from a bestseller.

I found her chapter on getting published to be the best one. A lot of other books do not touch on the subject at all. I especially found her advice on finding agents to be helpful. However, like another reviewer pointed out, she doesn't seem to understand that what works for her will not work for a novice writer (her recomendation on fonts being one such instance). If you don't have other books, you might not be able to tell what's real advice and what's just in Evanovich-land. Also disapointing to me was her not spilling the beans about how many words she types a day. Inquiring minds want to know.

What I think is great about this book is it's humor and easy-access format. I have writing guides that have bored me to death. This kept me riveted and only took a few hours to read.

I think this is one of the best guides on the market for those who are just starting to get into writing. Because hundreds of pages on story goals and inner conflict can be very intimdating. Most guides complicate things by making a write self-aware about something that pretty much comes naturally. Evanovich gives the best advice: develop some cool characters, find out what they'll be doing, and-- for the love of goodness-- sit down and write!

See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit
See Jane Write: A Girl's Guide to Writing Chick Lit
by Sarah Mlynowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.95
96 used & new from $0.01

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just Like Chick-lit, October 5, 2006
This is a fun guide. Learn about how writing chick-lit is like therapy and dating. And forget about making excuses about not writing, Ms. Mess or Ms. Really-Busy. She's got your number. There's lots of personal experience and advice. It's like sitting down and having a conversation with some good friends.

There's a downside, though. With 180 pages and lots of graphics, there isn't a lot of text. A lot of topics are covered but: a) none that aren't covered in other guides and b) none that aren't covered better in other guides. I can't see anyone picking up this book and then having the light bulb go on "aha! I can now write a chick-lit novel!"

Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers
Telling Lies for Fun & Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers
by Lawrence Block
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.41
122 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is what I've been waiting for, September 24, 2006
I have a lot of how-to-write books, and find new tips in each, but if I could only keep one, it would be this. Block covers what most other books do (description, characterization) but goes into some of the "minor details" I think a lot of writers want to know (how long each day, pen names). Unlike a lot of such books, Block does not insist that his way is the way. He provides advice and flexibility. More importantly, he encourages readers to be themselves and write in their own voice. Become a follower of Marshall or Frey and you might lose your voice to them. Block inspires you to write more, and to improve *your* writing, not become a clone of him. I can see myself consulting this book over, and over, and over.

Metro Girl (Alex Barnaby Series #1)
Metro Girl (Alex Barnaby Series #1)
by Janet Evanovich
Edition: Hardcover
568 used & new from $0.01

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Someone's writing formula needs a makeover- stat!, September 14, 2006
Dear Ms. Evanovich,

It is disapointing enough that all your Stephanie Plum novels have started to sound the same. But by peddling this Plum-lite you have taken it too far. Or do you figure that the plot you used for 12 identical Plum books was so spectacular, you'd water it down and turn it into Metro Girl? How long did this beauty take you to write? Two, maybe three days?

It's getting old. It's nice that you're a multi-millionaire off this tripe, but in case you'd like to produce something worth while, I have some tips for the next Metro installment:

Quick, change Alex's age to 24. We'd believe she's 24. We don't believe she's 30. Trust me, the readers won't notice. They already think the age was a typo. She can like pink all she wants, but how about a nice deep pink blouse to go along with black wool pants? And for goodness sakes, call her Alex. It's masculine enough. Barney is horrible, and a much more logical nickname for her brother.

What is with the cars? You couldn't even change that from the Plum novels? I know you like the blue-collar girl, but how about you make Alex a plummer? Or obsessed with motorcycles instead of cars? Something different. Anything different. It's not to late to change.

Never do a plot involving international politics again. But if you have to, stick to a country your contemporary readers find compelling. The cold war is over. Look into it.

Dump the fat latina and gun-toting granny side-kicks. We don't need, or want, a watered-down Lula and Grandma Mazur. And how about making one of the muscled goons you're so fond of the gay one? Why does it have to be the guy who exfoliates and totes around a dog addicted to spice cookies?

Could you make Alex diet or exercise? Did we need another female crime solver who can eat massive amounts of junk food and remain a size 2?

I didn't find NASCAR guy that repulsive. But many of your readers did, and I'd suggest listening to them.

In conclusion, I hope you've found some of my suggestions useful, and you've decided to do a complete overhaul of Alex Barnaby. Tie the rest of those annoying characters up with the cuban gold and drop them into the ocean.


A reader

P.S.- On second thought, maybe you should stick to romance novels.

The Thin Pink Line (Red Dress Ink (Numbered Paperback))
The Thin Pink Line (Red Dress Ink (Numbered Paperback))
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Edition: Paperback
64 used & new from $0.01

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I would have loved to like this, September 9, 2006
It all starts well for Jane Taylor. Period late, she sees a chance to snag her reluctant wet-rag boyfriend, Trevor. But then it all fall apart when she realizes the vacancy in her womb. Oops. But, heck, why not continue with the pregnancy? She'd get pregnant next month for real. A flawless plan.

Am I the only one who struggles with Janes motivations through out this book? Did the author do any research at all? This is not a believable book, not even by a stretch. Ponder this:

- Why, on this dear earth, would savvy Jane Taylor care to keep lackluster Trevor? Or get pregnant with him when he shows no interest in it whatsoever? Or marry him when he shows no interest in her whatsoever? So, either our author was grasping at motivational straws to make her story work, or Jane is the stupidest woman to have ever walked fictional chick-lit world.

- Why would David, her best friend (beautiful, gay, and loving of the wretched-- how ever so cliche) stand by her? And keep her secret? No one's friend is this nice.

- Fake a pregnancy in part to have people open doors and be nice to her? Oh come on!

- At the end of her 3rd month, Jane is looking for an out to her scheme, but would hate to come clean. Has our author ever heard of miscarriage? The fact that Jane did not take this very obvious out was the first big loss of credibility and enjoyability for me.

Jane is a sociopath with a chick-lit twist. That the author expected readers to connect with her in any way is astounding. So it speaks well to her ability that she's almost able to do that. There are moments were Jane is funny, charming even. But there's too much wrong with the plot for me not to have thought it a ultragalatic waste of time. The author frequently makes huge credibility errors (you cannot access a hospital nursery by giving the last name "Smith"- sorry- and a department store will not give you a fake preg suit- and if you steal a baby off a church stoop you will wind up in jail).

Worse of all, the author leaves us hanging. Jane has made a colossal mess of her life and she's in her ninth fake month. How is she going to dig out of this one? Her very professional and social existance hang in the balance. There's no way out of it for Jane. The author saw this and decided to take the easy road and just not resolve the issues. I suppose she realized she couldn't end the saga and make it sound at all realistic, so, hey, don't finish the story. The author should have known better to spin a fictional web she lacked the ability to control.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 15, 2009 10:02 AM PDT

Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue (Write Great Fiction Series)
Dialogue: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting Effective Dialogue (Write Great Fiction Series)
by Gloria Kempton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.21
114 used & new from $2.48

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Okay, September 4, 2006
It's hard for me to express how this book disapointed me in concrete, rational terms. The best I can put it is: Gloria Kempton gives you an idea of what great dialogue should be, but doesn't teach you how to get there. What would have improved this book would have been examples of bad dialogue, dialogue that didn't serve its purpose, corrected into good dialogue. There is a snippet of that, but just a snippet.

This book is about 100 pages longer than it needed to be. Those last 100 pages or so draaaged. It's excessively repetative, to the point where I had to really force myself to get through even the last 10 pages. I couldn't imagine having to read even. one. more. word. of the repetative drivel.

I give Dialogue 4 stars because, despite the flaws-- and the typos, because there's a bunch of them-- the book departs valuable advice. You learn how easy dialogue can be if you just get inside your character's head and ask one question: what would this person say. You learn that dialogue is means to an end, not the end itself, and I think that's a mistake I've been making. There are exercises at the end of the chapter to help hone my skills. I liked the blocked out text on how to fix my work and the checklists-- both easy to reference when I need advice in a pinch, but don't have time to go through the many points I post-it-flagged in the book.

Not the earth-shattering manual I expected it to be, but with great qualities of its own. I'm sure it'll keep a place on my bookshelf.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2006 6:56 PM PST

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
How to Write a Damn Good Novel: A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling
by James N. Frey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.44
145 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A How-to-Write Classic, September 1, 2006
How to Write a Damn Good Novel is billed as "a step-by-step no nonsense guide to dramatic storytelling." I don't know about the step-by-step part, but Frey's advice is definately no-nonsense and will help you create dynamic stories.

I sat down to read this book with a packet of post-it notes by my side. I marked all the important points I thought I'd need to remember for later. At the end, I had a thick rainbow along the spine. I couldn't get more than 3 pages without finding some gem I just had to make sure not to forget.

I think a lot of the other reviewers might be correct when they say this advice is not necessarily earth shattering and can be found else where. But there is a difference. Frey does it with more clarity, more punch. And why buy six writing books to get all the advice you can get in this one?

I can't go wrong with this one. Even though I didn't agree with some of his advice, I still found his guide inspired me to write better and make my character sizzle. I have a lot of writing guides on my bookshelf, but this is one of my favorites.

On Writing
On Writing
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
61 used & new from $0.16

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New fondness for Stephen King, August 30, 2006
This review is from: On Writing (Mass Market Paperback)
On Writing is the first King book I've read. I don't know if I like his books, but I sure like him. And if you'll take nothing else from this book (which I doubt, but play along), it'll be a long list of his books to check out from the library.

When I read the introduction, I had to laugh. In the tradition of Strunk and White, King decided to omit all unnecessary words and make this book as slim as possible. I guess only Stephen King could consider 300 pages a slim volume. Did he succeed at taking out all unnecessary words? Well, I guess that would depend on whether you really need to know how he wiped his bottom with poison ivy once as a child. Personally, I think all the childhood stuff was a bit worthless to the point of his book and its readers. But aside from that, I thought the book was entertaining and a fast, plesant read. That's a shocker for a writing guide. Of course, King never claimed to make a how-to manual. He's just giving us a few tips for the road.

Reading through On Writing, I found great gems of writing advice. But I do disagree with some of his advice. King refers to writing as digging out a fossil. As you write, more of the fossil will appear. He discourages plotting for this reason. Well, it's nice that King can come up with an idea, sit down at his computer and "discover" the other 400 pages of it. But he needs to realize that some of us need to bring tools to the dig, and one of those tools is an outline or plot. For most begining writers, trying to write from an idea alone will result in a 100 page winding manuscript that fizzles out from underdevelopment. And King offers no advice on how to fix that.

I would recomend those to any who have an inkling to write, however small. Whether you're dazzled by King's advice, or decide on a different path-- you won't feel as if you wasted your time. King has earned his reputation as a master. And let's face it, the guy is fun.

First Draft in 30 Days
First Draft in 30 Days
by Karen Wiesner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.04
115 used & new from $0.76

29 of 44 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Really, I wouldn't bother, August 13, 2006
This review is from: First Draft in 30 Days (Paperback)
I don't think Karen Wiesner's plotting techniques can be applied to any piece of fiction worth reading. All you need to do is flip to worksheet 15 to see how flawed her system is. She recomends plotting out with short-term goal, thwarting of short-term goal, character reaction. This leads to a very choppy, jumpy piece of fiction. What's worse is that the "real life examples" (she takes published, popular books and uses them to fill out her worksheets as examples) don't even work with her system. There's a bunch of blanks with The Lovely Bones. And she encourages her plotters to fill out every part of the worksheet using detailed instruction-- but in the real life examples each part is rarely more than a sentence! Her instructions are confusing. Her worksheets are confusing. Her examples are confusing.

And even the books she cites as examples do not use the formula she has laid out for plotting. No book has that much reaction. Thank goodness. It would be an awful bore to read!

Save some frustration and read Evan Marshall's workbook instead.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 29, 2007 4:33 PM PDT

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